Power of Social Forum Is Its Global Diffusion

By Conway, Janet | Canadian Dimension, March-April 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Power of Social Forum Is Its Global Diffusion

Conway, Janet, Canadian Dimension

Naomi Klein is right to worry about the "big men" and "big projects" of the Latin American Left capturing the World Social Forum and defining media interpretations of the event ("What happened to the new left?", Globe and Mail, January 30).

However, the growing power and significance of the WSF does not rest in Lula's spectacular election victory as President of Brazil and the Workers Party's rise to power in Brazil as carriers of a new democratic left project centred on control of the nation-state. Rather, the power of the World Social Forum lies in its, global diffusion as a process among movements and civil-society groups worldwide.

In the one short year since WSF organizers called upon participants to organize regionally, social forums have proliferated. Most spectacularly, the European Social Forum mobilized over a million people in Florence to march against war in November, 2002. In India, the Asia Social Forum attracted 60,000 in early January, From neighbourhood to national scales, social forums are being organized all over Latin America. In Canada, organizing processes are underway in Toronto, Quebec City, Victoria, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Hamilton, with others being incubated.

Even though activists everywhere are following developments in the Workers Party, the Social Forum is not about Lula. Rather, its importance is as an autonomous space for the movements and groups of global civil society to rub up against one another. In a space defined by diversity of participation and pluralism of political approaches and opinion, the rubbing has produced friction. Over the last three years, sparks borne on the wind of new ideas have flared into steady flames, which now burn on all continents.

Movement activists in Canada have also been affected by its power. In Porto Alegre last week a historic meeting of activists from Quebec and English-speaking Canada agreed to plan a Canada-Quebec Social Forum. For the first time in decades, there is a political opening for collaboration among left movements across the Quebec-Canada divide, made possible by the spirit of Porto Alegre, with its contagious conviction that another world is possible.

In other ways, too, the World Social Forum has already provoked seismic shifts in movement politics in Canada. Any group from an where in the world that supports the WSF charter is welcome to organize their own events as part of the WSF programme. The Forum's agenda is amazingly open. There is no filtering of political opinion beyond a shared opposition to neoliberalism. This mode of organizing poses challenges to conventional activist practice in English Canada, based as it has been upon coalitions of formal organizations with little room for grassroots participation.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Power of Social Forum Is Its Global Diffusion


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?